Boosting Tiny Greens with Compost and Light Colors

Jim Crocker
3rd March, 2024

Boosting Tiny Greens with Compost and Light Colors

Image Source: Natural Science News, 2024

Key Findings

  • In a University of Almeria study, a 50:50 compost and peat mix with LED 2 light increased microgreen growth
  • Compost mix affected nitrate levels more, while LED light boosted health-promoting anthocyanins
  • The findings suggest sustainable indoor farming with enhanced nutritional value of microgreens
Microgreens, the young seedlings of vegetables and herbs, have become a popular choice for health-conscious consumers due to their high nutrient content and intense flavors. Researchers at the University of Almeria have conducted a study[1] to explore how different growing conditions affect the growth and nutritional value of two microgreen species, mizuna and pak choi. This investigation is particularly relevant as the global demand for sustainable and space-efficient farming practices rises. The study focused on using agro-industrial compost mixed with peat as a growing medium, comparing it against the traditional 100% peat medium. Additionally, it analyzed the effects of two different LED lighting spectra on the plants' development. The findings of this research could have implications for indoor farming, where optimizing growth conditions for better yield and nutritional quality is a constant challenge. The experiment was designed to measure the fresh and dry biomass yield, which indicates how much plant material was produced, as well as the levels of glucosinolates and phenolic compounds, which are important for their health-promoting properties. Nitrate content was also analyzed, as excessive amounts can be detrimental to human health. Results showed that a 50:50 mix of compost and peat, when combined with a specific LED lighting setup (LED 2), which included blue, red, and far-red light, led to the highest biomass production in both mizuna and pak choi. This suggests that the combination of these two factors can significantly influence the growth of microgreens. Interestingly, while the type of compost had a more pronounced effect on the nitrate content in the microgreens, the LED light played a crucial role in the production of anthocyanins, particularly in mizuna. Anthocyanins are pigments responsible for the red, purple, and blue colors in many fruits and vegetables, and they are known for their antioxidant properties. The study's observations regarding light and growth are supported by earlier research[2], which found that different light spectra can influence the growth and nutritional quality of brassica microgreens. Similarly, another study[3] highlighted the importance of the food matrix and digestion characteristics in the bioaccessibility of (poly)phenols in cruciferous sprouts, underscoring the complex interactions between diet and nutrient assimilation. Moreover, the findings align with a review[4] that analyzed the effects of indoor LED lighting on the content of specialized metabolites in crops. This review emphasized the potential of specific light recipes to enhance the nutritional value of indoor-grown produce. In conclusion, the University of Almeria's study demonstrates the potential of using a mix of agro-industrial compost and peat, along with tailored LED lighting, to cultivate nutritionally and phytochemically rich microgreens. This approach not only contributes to more sustainable growing practices by utilizing waste products as compost but also offers a method to enhance the health benefits of these miniature plants. As indoor farming technologies evolve, such research provides valuable insights for producing high-quality, nutrient-dense foods in controlled environments.

NutritionPlant ScienceAgriculture


Main Study

1) Combined effect of an agro-industrial compost and light spectra composition on yield and phytochemical profile in mizuna and pak choi microgreens.

Published 29th February, 2024

Related Studies

2) Effect of LED lights on the growth, nutritional quality and glucosinolate content of broccoli, cabbage and radish microgreens.

3) In Vitro Evidence on Bioaccessibility of Flavonols and Cinnamoyl Derivatives of Cruciferous Sprouts.

4) Beyond vegetables: effects of indoor LED light on specialized metabolite biosynthesis in medicinal and aromatic plants, edible flowers, and microgreens.

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